“I should have mentioned before, that, in the autumn of the preceding year,  I had form’d most of my ingenious acquaintance into a club of mutual improvement, which we called the Junto; we met on Friday evenings. The rules that I drew up required that every member, in his turn, should produce one or more queries on any point of Morals, Politics, or Natural Philosophy, to be discuss’d by the company; and once in three months produce and read an essay of his own writing, on any subject he pleased.” - Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin Franklin was one cool dude. In addition to being an author, inventor, postmaster, printer and statesman, he was also a civic leader in Philadelphia. In 1727 he created The Junto, a “mutual improvement” club. Also known as the Leather Apron Club, its purpose was to debate questions of morals, politics, and natural philosophy, and to exchange knowledge of business affairs. The members of the Junto were drawn from diverse occupations and backgrounds, but they all shared a spirit of inquiry and a desire to improve themselves, their community, and to help others. Among the original members were printers, surveyors, a cabinetmaker, a clerk, and a bartender.
The Junto evening meetings were organized around a series of questions that Franklin devised, covering a range of community topics. These questions were used as a springboard for discussion and community action, and, in fact, led to the installation of such things as community firefighting brigades and public hospitals.
While Benjamin Franklin passed in 1790, the Junto exists today in a number of places, including a resurrection just a few blocks from Franklin’s Philadelphia residence. Since 2008, the folks at the web design firm P’unk Ave have hosted a number of Juntos, covering everything from the future of libraries to creating an age-friendly Philadelphia.
Tonight, the Junto topic will be about music sampling. In particular, how do we balance creativity, copyright and compensation in the digital age? The discussion will include Peter DiCola, co-author of the recently published Creative License, Maxx Stoyanoff Williams from Black Landlord/The Goats, and one other guest. As with other Juntos, the guests will kick off the conversation, but everyone in the room will jump into the discussion.
The Junto starts at 6:00 PM, with conversation kicking off at 7:00 PM. There’s tomato pie and Newcastle Brown Ale, and attendees are encouraged to add to the potluck. If you’re in Philly, gather with other learn’d individuals and partake in the debate. Facebook event page here.